Trolls in Wonderland

Welcome to the hivemind, otherwise known as Collective Consciousness. You know: having a shared belief system. Similar group behavior. Polite society. In real life, anyway. Online the hive mind is the stuff of Kafka and Orwell, or their thirteen-year-old versions anyway.

It's a kooky where faceless people simultaneously proclaim the need for free speech at almost any costs, while seeing no hypocrisy in censoring everything it disagrees with. Espousing the right to privacy and free speech while using these rights as a platform for posting photos of abuse, and child pornography, only stepping in after the fact, when enough people who don't like child pornography and abuse complain.

Reddit is the poster child for this behavior. Yes, the same place that hosted President Obama's "Ask me Anything" session are guilty of this.

Not just because they tend to espouse and contradict free speech rights, but because Reddit is owned by the parent company of Condé Nast. The people who also produce GQ, Gourmet and Vanity Fair also allow trolls like Violentacrez to wreak havoc online.

Or at least they used to.

Yesterday, the troll equivalent of Watergate happened. Columnist Adrian Chen outed perhaps the world's most notorious troll, Violentacrez, as being 49 year old Michael Brutsch.

Brutsch believes he is a champion of free speech. According to Gawker,

Since Brutsch stumbled on Reddit from a link on the internet culture blog Boing Boing in 2007, he has pushed the boundaries of Reddit's free-speech culture. He has done this mostly through creating offensive subreddits to troll sensitive users.

As Violentacrez, Brutsch was able to champion free speech under such sections titled:
/r/ Chokeabitch /r/Rapebait /r/Incest and the internet's favorite, /r/Hitler

Oh and he also was behind the creepshots forum, too.

In the Gawker interview, Brutsch goes from First Amendment champion, to pleading with Chen to keep his anonymity. Why? Because the biggest fear a troll has isn't losing the right to post child pornography, or sexual abuse photos, or hurl insults in the comments section. The biggest fear a troll has, is being found out. Once you are found out, it's game over. If Brustch wants to continue an anonymous life, then his user name Violentacrez, which has so much brand equity, must be abandoned. And I can't imagine the fifteen minutes of fame experienced in the real world probably is as fun as it was online.

Unsurprisingly, Reddit has responded by censoring the Gawker article links. The people who defend free speech are banning anything that calls them out on their shit. As far as I'm concerned though, an article like this has been long overdue.

To paraphrase a scripture, trolls like the poor, will always be with us.

But that doesn't mean we have to tolerate it. It doesn't mean our free speech should be silenced. Besides: with I.P. Addresses and cookies, most of y'all aren't as anonymous as you think.

As much as trolls want to believe otherwise, the publisher still has the last say. Condé Nast, might want to wake up and really start taking a second look at who and what is being posted on one of their most valuable outlets. Anonymous users on Reddit say as much about the Condé Nast brand as GQ, Vanity Fair and Gourmet. They should start to be a lot more proactive in their concern about the Trolls in Wonderland, lest any more unwanted attention bubbles up from the murky pits of free speech.

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Anonymous Adgrunt's picture
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Dabitch's picture

I doubt Condé Nast will care. They never raised an eyebrow before. They might be able to say that the copyright infringement isn't Reddit's problem (as it is and various other linked sites), and somehow they will weasel out of the issue of /r/rape too.

I'm sure this will fuel the anonymous debate as well. I personally like nyms, but prefer a community that polices bad behavior rather than encourages trolling under said nyms.

kidsleepy's picture

It's no coincidence we're seeing a rise in anti-cyber bullying rhetoric, too.

Dabitch's picture

Reddit blocks Gawker in row over 'creepshot' photos

The focus on Reddit's less salubrious content will be an embarrassment for owner Condé Nast, publisher of Vanity Fair and Vogue, which bought the site in 2006.

Gawker journalist Adrian Chen began investigating one prolific Reddit user, Violentacrez, who has set up hundreds of sub-forums where users post links and images including bestiality, rape fantasy, under-age porn and upskirt photos.

Violentacrez most recently joined "Creepshots", a forum of stalking-style pictures of women taken without their consent. The forum was taken down on Thursday and has now been banned.

Most interesting link in this article: Predditors: "is now identifying and naming Reddit contributors behind objectionable content...."

"Under Reddit's guidelines, publishing sexually suggestive covert pictures of women would be acceptable, but identifying Violentacrez by name would not be."

andromeda's picture

The 18 year old girl who found herself in the upskirt subreddit should lawyer up and sue Condé Nast.

Dabitch's picture

Speaking of cyberbullying, none y'all wanna see the really awful subreddits cracking tasteless jokes/memes about a 7th grader who committed suicide. It's beyond the pale. Huffpo on Amanda Todd here.

Dabitch's picture

Interlink from this threads comments because it's important: Condé Nast owned Reddit in 2008, the very same year that /r/Jailbait was voted the best section of the site.

And. Reddit Inc is still wholly owned by Advance Media, Condé Nast’s parent company. On the board you'll find Reddit founder Alexis Ohanian as well as Condé Nast’s president Bob Sauerberg and its CTO Joe Simon.